Dan Crowley’s scintillating performance against Peterborough United in the FA Youth Cup last night certainly captured much attention, with the 16 year old demonstrating his outstanding technical and tactical awareness throughout the fully deserved victory at London Road.
Peterborough were simply unable to cope with Crowley’s wizardry, as he frequently found pockets of space before threading pinpoint passes through to Arsenal’s myriad of attacking talents, which eventually culminated in the former Aston Villa player claiming four assists to go with the two goals that he scored himself.
Crowley’s first goal is certainly worthy of another mention. The midfielder seemed as if he was going to play a simple pass to Gedion Zelalem, but instead took a touch to steady himself before finding the net with a superb effort via the far post. The opposition may not have been of the highest calibre last night, but that should not take any of the shine away from what was simply a divine performance from Crowley; one that even eclipsed his display in the demolition of Torquay United in the previous round.
What next for Crowley? He has already edged his way ahead of Jack Jebb in the pecking order, but, at present, is yet to make his competitive debut for the U21s, with the likes of Zelalem, Kristoffer Olsson and Jon Toral all ahead of him. In a struggling U18 side in the league he has been one of the few plus points, but it will not be too long before he is elevated to the second-string on a permanent basis and, if he continues to churn out performances like last night’s, then the already considerable buzz surrounding his development will only increase.
Crowley may be the star turn, but there is plenty else to admire about this Arsenal FA Youth Cup side, and despite the persisting doubts over Carl Laraman’s coaching capabilities, the young Gunners will be hopeful of a lengthy run in the competition.
That players such as Jebb and Austin Lipman, who first featured for the U18s at the age of 15, cannot even command a place in the starting line-up tells you just how strong this side is. Zelalem’s performance last night was not in the same vein as Crowley’s, but the German is demonstrating signs of adapting to a deeper midfield role, whilst Chuba Akpom’s hat-trick provided the clearest indication yet that the striker is returning to his prolific goalscoring form of last season.
Full-backs Tafari Moore and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill continue to impress, whilst Glen Kamara is quietly effective as the midfield anchor and winger Ainsley Maitland-Niles is starting to add goals to his already considerable attributes.
If there are some doubts about this side then they centre on the heart of the defence. Stefan O’Connor is an impressive player who is still in the first year of his scholarship, but Leander Siemann, who has been selected alongside him in the two ties so far, has failed to demonstrate his qualities since joining the club, whilst Alfred Mugabo, who emerged as a substitute last night, still seems somewhat unfit after returning from injury.
Hopefully Julio Pleguezuelo, the centre-back signed from Barcelona last summer, will be fit to return for the Fifth Round of the competition, where tougher opponents are likely to lie in wait.